Guitarist Hannes Riepler clearly loves the Vortex Jazz club in Dalston.
Not only does he hold a regular jazz night and jam session there, and live close by, Hannes Riepler's only gone and written a tune in adoration of Gillet Square, location of the club. Gillet Square Blues is the most idiosyncratic track on the album for sure, but is a good demonstration of the band dynamic of Riepler’s Quartet comprising Riepler plus Chris Cheek from the States on tenor sax, Oli Hayhurst on double bass and James Madden on drums.
While there’s nothing innovative about the instrumental set up, Riepler’s playing and his strong eye for composition creates a warm overall sound. This pick-up band came about through Cheek playing in one of Riepler’s renowned Sunday evening sessions at the Vortex. After a European tour in 2015 they clearly have all the pieces in place and demonstrate they are a group that enjoys playing together and expressing that in their music.
Over eight tracks, Riepler explores the influences from around Dalston, the area of London he’s picked to live in after arriving from Austria in 2006. Dalton can certainly have a wild, outlaw town sort of vibe but on title track Wild Life, the sax and guitar playing is smooth and inoffensive over a charming swing-ish beat, more suggestive of a walk down the Mall than taking your chances on Kingsland High Street.
Track four, Nothing New …. Just Beautiful, is indeed just as the name says, beautiful in its sparseness and simplicity, with Riepler sensibly not overplaying behind Cheek’s sax, but just giving enough in his comping and soloing to make the sax soar and spin a lovely tale. Certainly a stand-out track on the album. Sailing Ships - of which there are few in E6 I’d imagine - has a choppy rhythm and breezy sax line; sixth track Golden Rainbow certainly contains a myriad of jazz colours, with some lovely chords picked out by Riepler. Final track Modern Guilt started off with a Madden drum riff that has a very nineties feel with the chord progression and bass playing a simple rock-style riff over which Cheek spins a lovely web of sax virtuosity. Then I look at the inlay card … ah yes, it’s a cover of a Beck track! Good fun, but also a little disappointing that the best track’s a cover of sorts.
Wild Life offers listeners perfectly listenable and tuneful jazz, with a good proportion of worthy tunes over eight tracks. It just lacks a little originality in its sound that would mark it out as a game changer and candidate for regular playing. Nevertheless, it’s a worthy release early in 2016 that fans of jazz guitar will love. The other thing that lets the album down slightly is the awful photography on the cover, which looks like it was done with a smart phone. Something for Hannes to look at for his next album!
Wild Life was released on 9th January on Jellymould Jazz.